Transparency in nursing homes: Tracking COVID-19 cases and deaths

Published: Apr. 22, 2020 at 4:15 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - It’s one of the sad realities of the pandemic.

Nursing homes across the country are hot spots for COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Now, the government wants to track how many nursing home residents are sick and dying and where.

“I think transparency is very important, because it holds people accountable,” said Seema Verma, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Verma is a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. She says nursing homes are now required to report all COVID-19 cases to their residents, family members, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many nursing facilities across the country are understaffed, don’t have equipment, and family members aren’t allowed inside.

“The responsibility for keeping these nursing home patients safe really is on the nursing home. I think it’s very important that we all work together as state, local officials and federal officials to make sure nursing homes have the support that they need,” Verma said.

The number of deaths in nursing homes across the country is staggering, but the CDC doesn’t have all the data in yet. The latest reporting guidelines are just one step, and Verma says the federal government is trying to do more.

“On the federal level, we have really focused all of our inspectors across the nation to focus specifically on nursing homes and around infection control…Some of our survey results show there continues to be problems around hand washing, just around making sure state and local officials are aware and also on isolating patients,” said Verma.

Adhering to those guidelines could mean the difference between life and death for some our nation’s most vulnerable – our nursing home residents.

Verma says COVID-19 data from nursing homes across the country will be available to the public online in the next few weeks. Once it’s posted, you can find it on the Medicare website HERE.

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